The 20th Century was an era of increased efficiency in communications technology. It has allowed our economies and culture to globalize, turning communication into the world’s most valuable currency.Like the print, radio and television media before it, international governments have swarmed the internet like ant colonies to an old apple, mapping, chopping and laying claim to the spoils. Today, almost 2 billion people, one third of the entire global population, have internet access (25% of those have a Facebook ). While some countries, like China and Iran censor pages and restrict access with the intent to control their cultural exchange, the United States is attempting to regulate our national internet for a different purpose: generating profits.
Rage Against The Machine: “Vietnow”[audio: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/18649407/03%20Vietnow%201.mp3]
Right now the American internet is mostly “neutral,” meaning any page you want to access loads about as fast as your computer and connection can process it. Internet giants Google and Viacom are pushing Congress to create a media “toll-lane.” If you can afford to pay, your page will always be in the fast lane loading instantly. If you can’t, people may stop reading your content because it loads slowly. This is 21st century politics and Net Neutrality is vital to preserving democratized communications.
When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was formed in the 1930s to formally regulate mass media, its main function was to create legislation that would prevent monopoly control of the new mediums. The motivation behind these regulations was the underlying belief that democratizing information was fundamentally American.
“Internet giants Google and Viacom are pushing Congress to create a media “toll-lane.” If you can afford to pay, your page will always be in the fast lane loading instantly. If you can’t, people may stop reading your content because it loads slowly.”
Then came the 1980s “Reaganomics” which led to sweeping deregulation of mass-media leaving us today with only six companies controlling everything we see, hear or read in the form of print, radio or television; Newscorp (Fox News, Wall Street Journal, 20th Century Fox), General Electric (NBC, Universal Pictures, Bravo), Walt Disney (ABC Television, the Diseny Channel, ESPN), Viacom (MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount) Time Warner (CNN, HBO, Warner Bros.), and CBS (CBS, Showtime, Simon & Schuster). The principle was that FCC regulations hindered the growth of businesses, which they did.
When dial-up internet started appearing in middle-class households in the 90s, the information generated and shared by the average Internet user became more valuable than formally published works. First came Napster, lawsuits brought it down but its influence was permanent. Now, most artists stream their music for free online through internet radio, social media, and websites.
Next came the blog, which has almost de-legitimized every big-city newspaper in the country, with the exception of a couple major news outlets. Bloggers could get their foot in the door to regular readership simply by creating quality commentary, without the production budgets, agents, and celebrity in the mainstream.
Blogs like SFCritic have been able to bypass Viacom or CBS “payola” (money paid to radio stations, TV networks and magazines to put certain artists or albums in constant rotation to generate record sales) to provide free, structured media and reviews to people who like music, not necessarily just “consumers.” Information on free blogs are not tainted by payola, and are generated in purity: the only discriminate factor of the reviews you read and music made available to you are writer’s own ears and eyes. Blogs like SFCritic help break small local bands, and strengthen the connection of our Bay Area music community to an international audience.
This model is under constant threat as the battle in Washington over net neutrality escalates.
So why aren’t we Twitter-trending, Facebook posting, marching on Washington, writing our government representatives or at least talking about it? Just this last December (2010), the FCC passed regulation to preserve net-neutrality… for internet users who aren’t accessing through a wireless network or mobile phone browser. The ruling and appeals are hard to follow and difficult to comprehend. What is clear is that if we want to preserve net neutrality, and if we enjoy the content generated by blogs such as SFCritic, we have to preserve neutrality.
Minnesota Senator Al Franken has made net neutrality his main issue, framing it as a first amendment issue. If you just read this, I urge you to visit his site, sign up, and share this information freely with everyone you feel like sharing it with.
How to write your Congressperson, urging them to preserve Net Neutrality https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml